Into just its second model-year (having debuted at the end of 2015), here we have a car already undergoing a name change. Nonetheless, the Scion brand, relegated to the history books in 2017, did at least leave us with a fun-to-drive coupe, the Scion FR-S (now the Toyota 86) and a practical compact, the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM (the follow-up to the 2016 Scion iM). The Corolla iM shares the mandate of its predecessor of seducing fans of the old Matrix, which disappeared in 2014.
Though it carries the Corolla name, the iM variant is in reality a Toyota Auris carefully adapted for our market. The Corolla and its iM sibling do have a number of points in common, but their origins are quite different. The Corolla sedan is assembled in several plants around the globe, including Canada, while the iM is built in Japan and the United Kingdom only. The platforms are also somewhat distinct from one another. In the end, of course, all of that matters less to consumers than having a wider choice of small hatchbacks available to them.
The trunk of the Matrix?
Is the Toyota Corolla iM a worthy successor to the defunct Matrix, a vehicle appreciated for its utility aspect? Going by the physical similarities and by the iM’s dimensions, the quick answer would be yes, but in reality, the new compact hatchback does not feature the practical trunk that so distinguished its predecessor.
One of the advantages of the old Matrix was the fold-down rear bench, the back of which was covered in a durable plastic material. When folded down, it created a nearly flat surface - a feat not duplicated by the new Corolla iM. The new model’s cargo capacity may be a little more generous (by a few measly litres), but I maintain that the Matrix was superior in this regard.
Better in front
Keen-eyed observers may notice in the iM the same dashboard as was featured in the Corolla sedan. The design is not exactly revolutionary, but in return it’s intuitive and ergonomic, a plus when you’re driving the car on a daily basis. The commands for the ventilation are thoughtfully placed near the gear lever, while the infotainment system is located higher up. I did find that the knobs for that system are on the small side, but at the same time the display is a touchscreen, and can also be controlled from the steering wheel.
Another quibble I had involved the placement of the adjustment knob for the heated seats and of the USB and AUX inputs; these are all found behind the gear lever, and so difficult to access. On a brighter note, driving position is adequate and the steering column is adjustable. The driver’s seat is acceptably comfortable, but only that – on extended travels you might find yourself wishing the seating was a little softer.
Unsurprisingly given its size, the Corolla iM offers back-row space that doesn’t match what you get in a Toyota Avalon, for example. That said, if you compare it to others in its category it doesn’t do too badly in this regard. As for the lateral field of vision, it is slightly hampered toward the rear by those pointed windows that are so in vogue these days.
Any sportiness in the Corolla iM?
Sitting on dual-tone 17-inch wheels, the Corolla iM does display a certain charm that’s almost European. The sloping hood that focuses the eye toward the central badge probably won’t appeal to everyone, but with its skid plates and rear spoiler, the exterior of the little car does project a convincing bite. But the question then is, is its outer shell a deceit?
As the iM uses the same engine set-up as the Corolla sedan as well as a CVT-type transmission, I’m tempted to say yes. This is a shame, because the chassis and the suspension adjustments do suggest the possibility of placing more explosive mechanics under the roof. But with a middling maximum power output of 137 hp and a transmission that obstinately seeks to reduce fuel consumption, Toyota entry in this category is far from a power-monger! In addition to which, the very light steering is not the most precise in its segment. If you’re looking for adrenaline rushes, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Don’t count either on the Sport button located between the seats to transform the Toyota Corolla iM into a rally monster. When in this mode, the mechanics are more discreet during acceleration, especially with the CVT, but it’s all still a long, long way from really sharpening the iM’s performance.
So why buy it?
These observations regarding its driving performance wonÀ’t put much of a dent into the reputation that accompanies the Corolla name. On the contrary, this Japanese compact car, whether it carries the iM badge or not, can boast of offering one of the best resale values in the industry, thanks especially its proven durability and reliability. That it lacks punch when you press on the accelerator is unlikely to hamper its success in Canada or elsewhere.
Stacked up against a number of manufacturers who have developed small-cylinder turbocharged engines, Toyota’s trusty 1.8L 4-cylinder won’t turn many heads. But despite its advancing age, this engine offers perfectly reasonable fuel consumption figures. Even when putting the mechanics through some pretty rough paces, the average came in around 8.5L/100 km/h for us – a highly acceptable result.
Relatively well-equipped for its sticker price of $23,375 (before delivery fees), the 2017 Toyota iM merits a road test if you’re looking for a dependable compact hatchback. It might not blow you away right off the bat, but in the long run you may well find it to be the best choice for you.